Thursday, November 6, 2014

Work-a-something

I work hard. Probably too hard. I average between 55 and 60 hours a week, with the busy season hitting it’s closer to 75 to 80. Earlier in my career I went seven years without a vacation. After flaming out I found a nice balance and actually took the time off I earned each year and ultimately was a happier and more productive person. All along it’s been my choice – while I can always come up with reasonable and strong justifications for my addictive habit, I have been fortunate in that the pressure to work and deliver results has been largely driven by me, making modifications somewhat easier. As somebody who is intimately familiar with the push and pull of “work” “life” balances, I’m particularly sensitized to others who claim to be burdened. I was amused by the recent study that members of Congress are considered workaholics as well, putting in 70 hours a week.

Roll Call reports that the average member of congress works 70 hours a week. The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) report was compiled from 200 interviews of congress people and their senior staff. The claim isn’t based on hours that they’re awake – it is based on labor. One of the reports researchers made the understatement of the year: “Perceptions are very different.”

Just about a year ago, in Dec. 2013, an America’s Voice (AV) issued a study came showing that Congress worked only 942 hours all year.  The difference between working 3640 hours a year and 942 is not one of just perception, but of methodology. (The average worker on a 40 hours week works 2080 per year, right in between the two studies.)  The CMF report includes the hours that a congress person spends working on constituent affairs, fundraising and all the things to keep their office going. The AV report only looked at the hours that Congress was officially in session and assumes that member of Congress are working only when in session.



The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Members of Congress do have work to do to respond to constituent requests, study issues, fund raise, etc. Just showing up and voting is not the sum total of the job.

97% of Congress was re-elected this week. 10 seats changed from one party to the other in the House – 3%.  6 seats changed in the Senate, 6% of the total or 16% of the seats that were up open. The media and political elite are beside themselves that “control” of the Senate has switched from Democrats to Republicans. While it’s true that a narrow majority of Republicans will now mean that committees and procedures will be run by a different party – the reality is very little will change. The Republicans controlled the agenda for the past 6 years by voting “no” on everything – by using everything they could to block legislation, appointments, etc. 


The paralysis that has defined Washington politics for the past decade plus will continue, the leadership will just be slightly different. The various political analysts will bloviate and the ‘differences’ between the parties will be hyped as if it was something discernable. As the hamster-wheel of America’s political establishment spins away, it’s comforting to know that they’re all working as hard as I am.


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